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Formal warning for The Lines Company outages – focus on recovery plan – ComCom

Formal warning for The Lines Company outages – focus on recovery plan In the wake of multiple outages and the failure to meet minimum quality standards, the Commerce Commission has accepted enforceable undertakings from The Lines Company Limited (TLC), which connects 18,000 electricity customers throughout the King Country, Ruapehu and Central Plateau.

TLC fell short of minimum quality standards due to outages in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 assessment periods and has been issued a formal warning. General Manager of Infrastructure Regulation, Andy Burgess, says the Commission’s focus is on a review and recovery plan to help TLC improve its network performance and service to customers.

“The agreed enforceable undertakings require TLC to have its network reviewed by an independent engineer, with that information forming the basis of a recovery plan that the company must deliver and report on.”

Mr Burgess says the majority of excessive outages could be attributed to poor processes and decision-making over a period of several years. This meant the network was inadequately safeguarded from known risks.

“We assessed TLC’s conduct against our enforcement criteria, the extent of detriment, seriousness of the conduct and the public interest. Our investigation concluded that there were many factors contributing to the outages, including significant adverse weather events, changes in live-line working practices, inadequate vegetation and poor asset management.

“This is very concerning, given the resulting disruption to TLC’s customers. In our view, TLC’s failure to introduce more robust asset management practices at an earlier stage played a significant role in the extent of its breaches,” says Mr Burgess.

The Commission’s decision to accept a recovery plan and issue a warning letter was made after an investigation that included site visits to inspect the network, a review of information provided by TLC and an independent engineering review from Strata Energy Consulting, which identified several areas where TLC’s practices fell below good industry practice.

The Commission has accepted enforceable undertakings that are contingent on TLC:

  • engaging an independent engineering expert to report on TLC’s network;
  • developing a plan to address the network and process issues identified in the report;
  • reporting annually on its progress in carrying out the plan to improve the network;
  • consulting with its key stakeholder groups when preparing its development plan; and
  • providing information that is readily accessible to its consumers.

A copy of the enforceable undertakings and warning letter are available on the Commission’s website.


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